My name is Dave and I am dead. The doctors said it was a brain aneurysm no one could’ve predicted. I was only 38. Despite the circumstances, I convinced my boss Andrew to let me keep my job; minus health coverage.
“You’re dead.” Andrew told me while checking off pages on his metallic clipboard. The clipboard made it seem he was writing something important, but it was only inventory.
“Dead people don’t need benefits.” Andrew continued. “They don’t use prescriptions, and they don’t need check-ups.” He flipped a page and thumbed through a box of Payday chocolate bars, marking with his pen as he counted.
We heard an engine idle, and looked up from the sales wall to see a red F-150 coasting in from the 401 and stopping at Pump 5. The gas cap faced the wrong direction.
“Moron.” Andrew said under his breath, and went back to counting confectionery.
“I could really use massage therapy once in a while, you know, for the rigor mortis.” I begged.
“You think I was born yesterday? I knew a dead guy once. He said rigor mortis cures itself after two weeks. How long has it been for you? Three months?” He scribbled something down and turned to the bubble-gum rack, “Pump 5 is waiting.”
I didn’t recognize the vehicle until I pulled the hose over the truck bed to reach the tank. A long line of key scratches ran across the side door all the way to the back wheel well. Some of them were from me.
“Mr. Anderson?” I asked, positive it was his truck but not sure if it was him or his kid driving it. Cataracts are one of many afflictions of being dead.
It was him. I could tell by his smoker’s rasp. He taught me wood shop in grade 9/10 split, and was probably the school’s most hated teacher. That was all water under the bridge though.
“Dave, I thought you died.”
“Yeah, I did.”
He rubbed his steering wheel pretending to smudge out imaginary grit. People get awkward once you confirm that yes, you are in fact dead.
“So, you’re still walking around eh? Isn’t that somethin’?” He asked.
It was something. But people asked the same old questions, and it was starting to get annoying. Now I know how muscle guys feel – How much do you bench?
He continued, “I must say, you look pretty good for a dead guy. What’s your secret?”
I gave him the same pre-fab answer I always used, “Well, I moisturise daily with Aloe Vera, and I’ve got something worked out with Marty, you know, the mortician on 2nd ave? He pumps me full of embalming fluid twice a month. I figure, if it works for Vladimir Lenin…”
No one ever got that joke, but everyone knew who Marty the mortician was. He dressed nice, and always had a metallic, chemical smell to him. He sponsored a little league team that wore bright yellow uniforms with his slogan: “Marty’s Morticianary Services: “We think outside the box so you don’t worry about whose in it.” Was “morticianary” even a word?
The hose wouldn’t reach despite a good yank, so Anderson flipped around to pump 2, where his cap would face the right direction. He warned me about humidity in the forecast and left with a reluctant handshake. I decided that even in death I didn’t like him.
We had a busy day at the gas station. Two people leaked rad fluid, and one couldn’t get their Volvo started after a fill-up. Another person’s credit card wouldn’t go through, and we both pretended that “insufficient funds” was a glitch in the system. “I’ve plenty of money,” the frumpy redhead said. Sure you do, honey. You’ve got cash like I’ve got blood pressure.
Being dead was kind of a pain in the ass. It confused the hell out of dogs, and during social events people always sat me at the kiddie table probably because I made things awkward for anyone. Even Marty the mortician couldn’t resist passing me off to the little rug rats who would no doubt question me on my palate for brains. He asked while inserting the catheter into my stomach:
“Dave, I’ve got a wedding coming up. Got anything going on next fall?”
“That depends. Will I be sitting with grown-ups?”
He shrugged the question off with a sniff, like it was absurd I was even asking, but he didn’t answer back, which confirmed my status as a social outcast. Luckily, “Who let the dogs out” rang from my pocket, and I fumbled for my Blackberry, thankful that the silence was broken.
“Oh, hi honey. Mr. Berkowitz called me again today. You remember him don’t you – Marty’s boss?”
I knew what this was about, and so did Marty. My mom was loud enough that he could hear her gabbing on. He shrugged his shoulders in a way that said: Friend, I was going to fill you in, but; you know how these things go.
“He’s such a nice man isn’t he?” My mom screeched. “You know his daughter is single and looking? And she’s a veterinarian. Oh, I know how you hate when I try setting you up, but I only do what’s best.”
She seemed distracted by something else, like she was cooking or ironing or god knows what else. I heard what sounded like pots being scrubbed in the background.
“Anyway, I was calling because Mr. Berkowitz and I have decided go through with the funeral regardless. I mean, we’ve paid for the flowers and the reception already, so we might as well get the family together. Plus, Aunt Rita’s air flight is non-refundable, and she really wants to see Les Misérables at the Fox.”
I could hear her flipping through tracks on the living room stereo – Prologue, Lovely Ladies, Master of the House, then back to Lovely Ladies. I knew the soundtrack off by heart. Mom saturated my childhood with Jean Valjean and his gang of French whiners. I hated that shit. I hated funerals too.
And it’s no different even when it’s your own. Actually, it’s probably worse. I couldn’t convince my mother to keep it closed casket, and the inner lining was uncomfortable. My nephew kept getting in line to poke me with a broken car antenna he kept hidden in his cashmere sweater, and it was hard to keep still and pretend I wasn’t aware of the whole ordeal.
“Can you guys not take pictures of me while I’m lying here,” I said to my mother’s friends when the flashing began to itch the irritated raisins that used to be my eyes. Who takes photos of a corpse at a funeral anyway? Some people.
The rest of the procession was a write-off, with me being in a grumpy mood. Even the eulogy was disappointing, my brother reminding everyone that I’d wet myself in grade 5 and how I said it was apple juice even though everyone knew apple juice doesn’t smell like piss. But, he said good things too; how I stayed up late one night to catch his pet hamster who’d broken out of his run-about ball. That was nice.
Regardless, I was sick of these people. Even while alive I wanted to be left alone. Now that I had my own casket, no matter how uncomfortable, I figured now was my chance. When mom signalled it was time to go after the last of my relatives left, I just laid with my arms crossed looking vacantly out the stained glass windows.
“We have to go before it starts to drizzle. You smell like fermented cabbage when you get wet.” She warned.
“I’m not going, mum. I’m staying in here.”
She fiddled with the purse straps, “You can’t stay. Andrew needs you pumping gas tomorrow morning.”
I stood my ground, “Dead people don’t work. Plus, you bought a plot in the cemetery. We might as well use it.”
My mum sat in the front pew, crossing her arms and holding her purse looking like an impatient mother waiting out her child’s temper tantrum. I wanted to be in the ground like dad. Just leave me a pair of headphones, some audio books, and a pack of Duracells. I’d be fine.
After a lot of plodding and pleading I convinced mom and Mr. Berkowitz to let me rest. I’ll probably be more bored than most dead people, but at least I won’t have to deal with the idiotic questions. It took death for me to realize that I never really enjoyed being alive in the first place. Before I closed the lid on myself at the graveyard, I handed Berkowitz a bribery cheque with most of my savings written on it. I wanted my epitaph changed right after my mum left. I told him that once they lowered me down and backhoed the dirt, to pay a scriber to chisel my gravestone so it read:
“Here lies David Mannford, beloved son and brother. Leave me the fuck alone.”
The End (no pun intended).
Bio: Matt Demers hails from Parts Unknown. His finishing movie is the Atomic Leg Drop. He current writes for MMArecruiter.com, FlashesInTheDark.com, and Demand Solutions. He has self-published three books and has been featured in many e-zines and anthologies.
Bibliography: Windsor’s Scariest Ghost Stories The Talking Dead Behind our Walls The Savant
Check out Matt Demers’ uncensored horror anthologies entitled “Gore Magazine”. Warning: not for the faint of heart!